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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman February 11, 2022

No, COVID spelled backward doesn’t mean evil spirit possession in Hebrew

If Your Time is short

  • “Divoc” is not a Hebrew word.

  • The closest existing word in the language is “dibbuk,” which means evil possession, but the two are not the same, linguistic experts said.

  • COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "coronavirus disease 2019.” "CO" stands for "corona," "VI" stands for "virus" and "D" stands for "disease." The number 19 reflects the year it was identified — 2019.

A woman on TikTok is suggesting that the word "COVID" spelled backward means some creepy things in another language.

"Let’s see how many people I piss off with this one," the woman says in a 15-second clip shared on Facebook. "COVID backwards: D-I-V-O-C. What divoc means in Hebrew is possession of the evil spirit."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

This is bogus – "Divoc" is not a Hebrew word. 

The closest existing word in the language is "dibbuk," which is sometimes spelled "dybbuk" in English. 

In Jewish folklore, an evil spirit that enters into a living person, or possesses them is called a "dibbuk," according to the Jewish Virtual Library encyclopedia. 

Lily Kahn, a professor of Hebrew and Jewish languages at University College London, told Newsweek that people may have arrived at this conclusion because Hebrew script is "somewhat ambiguous with respect to the pronunciation of vowels" and because the same consonant can be pronounced as b or as v depending on the word.

But she added that the two words are "definitely not the same."

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Ghil'ad Zuckermann, a professor of linguistics at the University of Adelaide, Australia, sent PolitiFact an email response that showed perhaps why some people viewing the words in their Hebrew spellings are walking away with this interpretation. He wrote, simply: 

קוביד = COVID

דיבוק = dybbuk

"Of course it is NOT the same word. It is sheer coincidence," he added. "No connection whatsoever."

This isn’t the first time people have tried to assign dubious meanings to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants. When the World Health Organization announced the new name for the virus, it made clear its naming convention. 

COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "coronavirus disease 2019." "CO" stands for "corona," "VI" stands for "virus" and "D" stands for "disease." The number 19 reflects the year it was identified — 2019.

Our ruling

A woman in a Facebook video claims that COVID spelled backward is "Divoc," which means "possession of the evil spirit" in Hebrew.

There is no such word in Hebrew. The closest existing word in the language is "dibbuk," which means evil possession, but the two are not the same word, linguistic experts said.

We rate this False. 

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No, COVID spelled backward doesn’t mean evil spirit possession in Hebrew

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